Dozens of Archaeological Finds Stolen From Secured Storage Facility in Central Israel

Burglars took metal objects excavated from Caesarea, and while their actions were documented by security cameras the theft initially went undetected

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900-year-old coins found at the Caesarea port in 2018.
900-year-old coins found at the Caesarea port in 2018.Credit: Clara Amit / Israel Antiquities Authority
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

Dozens of metal archaeological artifacts that had been excavated in Caesarea were stolen from an Israel Antiquities Authority storage facility in the center of the country about two months ago.

The authority never publicly disclosed the break-in at the facility, which houses a large portion of the country's archaeological treasures, but told Haaretz it is taking the matter very seriously and took immediate security measures after it was discovered.

Among the objects apparently taken were figurines, arrowheads, rings and nails. About 50,000 items, both large and small, are housed at the facility, including coffins and decorations from ancient columns.

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In recent years, as the pace has increased of archaeological salvage digs – conducted at sites where construction is slated to be carried out – the number of items stored at the storage facility has increased. The facility is receiving about 9,000 items a year, and although it is protected by fencing and security cameras, the burglary initially went undetected.

According to an Antiquities Authority source, the alarm system at the site sounded but the security firm protecting the site did not discover the break-in. The burglary was caught on security camera footage, however, which showed three intruders walking to the room where items that were taken were stored.

Senior officials at the authority said that other than three items details of which were not provided, the stolen Caesarea artifacts, some of which had been found in the Mediterranean, were generally not of exceptional value or of an exceptional nature.

The Israel Antiquities Authority reported the burglary to the police, which is investigating, but no suspects have been apprehended. The authority is also monitoring the antiquities market to see if the items surface for sale by antiquities dealers.

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